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Citrine History

Erica Courtney

Citrine quartz has been adored since ancient times. The name citrine was used to refer to yellow gems as early as 1385, when the word was first recorded in English. However, since the gem’s color closely resembled topaz, these two November birthstones shared a history of mistaken identities.

Quartz and topaz are actually unrelated mineral species. But before these differences were clear, many cultures called citrine (the yellow variety of quartz) by other names like gold topaz, Madeira or Spanish topaz—contributing to the confusion.

Throughout history, people believed that citrine carried the same powers as topaz, including the ability to calm tempers, soothe anger and manifest desires, especially prosperity. To leverage these powers, Egyptians used citrine gems as talismans, the ancient Greeks carved iconic images into them, and Roman priests fashioned them into rings.  

A key discovery gave citrine a boost of popularity in the mid-18th century. Mineralogists realized that amethyst and smoky quartz could be heat treated to produce lemony and golden honey hues of citrine, contributing to an abundance of affordable enhanced gems on the market.

Once citrine was distinguished from topaz, it quickly became popular in women’s jewelry as well as men’s cufflinks and rings. Today, it remains one of the most affordable and frequently purchased yellow gemstones.

Learn how to purchase citrine or explore other birthstones.